At the start of the current thoroughbred meet, Canterbury Park announced a takeout cut for their wagers, WPS wagers would have a 15% rake while multi-horse exotics would have a 18% takeout. A track with a sizable on-track presence saw on track handle increase 25% on opening weekend while wagers from all other sources increased 34%. Granted this was the first weekend of their meet, but one has to be impressed with the results.
Let me remind you Tioga Downs has the same 15% takeout on WPS wagers and has a 17% rake on Exacta and Daily Doubles; it has been this way since the 2010 season. Back then they had hope the New York Legislature would allow takeouts to be cut all the way to 9 or 10%, figuring the response to their industry-leading rate reductions would have a huge impact.
Well, Tioga Downs no longer looks for legislative change as the response to the takeout cuts was underwhelming. Sure, handle increased but it hardly moved the needle and didn't make up the commissions lost at the higher rate. Perhaps it is the fact handle at Tioga is relatively anemic, certainly when compared to the tracks in larger metropolitan areas. Maybe it is the fact harness racing has such a small audience; there weren't many new fans to draw attention from. To their credit, Tioga didn't revert to the original takeout rates (primarily because it is a slot track) but don't expect any further cuts from the Nichols, New York track. But if you are wondering why no harness track cuts their takeout rate, remember it has already happened. If you wonder why no other harness tracks cut their rates on traditional wagers, you can look back at the underwhelming response to Tioga Downs' cuts. Harness tracks are copycats. What works at one track is quickly copied by others and what fails at one track warns others not to try.
Those who say animal rights groups don't matter should take a look at the anti-greyhound groups who have another notch in their belt as Arizona is the latest state to ban live greyhound racing, banning racing at the end of this year and greyhound opponents have Kansas in their sights. At the rate the anti-greyhound groups are going, there may be no greyhound racing in the United States by the end of this decade. Of course it helps there are so few people attending greyhound racing that the tracks are ready to toss the towel in with the proper inducement; in the case of Arizona's last dog track, a guarantee to host simulcast racing at least for the next two years. So when tracks or racing commissions institute animal friendly rules, those who support horse racing shouldn't complain as times are changing. Yes, it will be harder to get rid of horse racing but if decoupling occurs in Florida or another state, you will see racetracks shouting 'we want to be next'.
With most of the heavy hitters competing at Harrah's Philadelphia this Sunday, little attention in the United States is being paid to the Molson Cup at Western Fair this Friday. People should be looking at the race if only to see if State Treasurer is able to win his fourth straight Molson. No, he hasn't been as sharp thus far this year but he isn't meeting the strongest Molson field. Weaker field or not, to win the same race four years straight is quite an accomplishment.